Posted on Wed Sep 1st, 2021 @ 5:40pm by Captain Björn Kodak & Lieutenant Jennifer Bracco, M.D. & Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai & Lieutenant Sharrina Blackstone & Lieutenant Cassian Pell & Lieutenant JG Irynya & Lieutenant Chaali
The Place of Skulls
Timeline: Mission Day 16 at 1130
[MD16: 1130 Hours]
"Well," Kodak spoke up from the center chair, "we're not going to find out much more from here, are we?" The question, of course, was rhetorical. Parked at the periphery of the Ankerus asteroid belt, the Sojo was trying to peer into sensory soup ahead with little luck. Given the composition of the asteroids themselves, sensor readings were exceptionally fuzzy the further out the Sojo scanned. This, of course, meant the only logical way to proceed was to actually fly into the belt and get close enough to their target coordinates to make some short range scans.
"What do you say, XO? Ready to get wading in?" Kodak asked, a tight smile borne of the excitement to explore coming to his lips.
From the XO's seat, Emni sat forward, her feet flat on the floor and one hand propped on the armrest of the chair. She was nervous, a feeling that wasn't wholly new, but felt dissonant against the excitement she could feel coming from the Captain. She wanted this to go well. "No time like the present," she remarked in reply.
"Alright then. Lieutenant," Kodak said, standing and walking close enough to place a hand on the back of Irynya's chair, "do you think you can weave your way through all this? I realize it's not exactly an easy job," he lamented, "but aside from Mr. Timmoz, there's no one else I'd trust to get us through."
Irynya craned her neck so that she could look back at Kodak. Her eyes lit and a grin of excitement settled onto her features. In this she was like so many other flyboys, excited for the thrill of the challenge of perfectly navigating the ship through in something more interesting than a standard travel path at warp. "I'll get you through," she said, her voice echoing the confidence and thrill she felt in the moment.
"Alright. Sound yellow alert. Set course and let's get going. Everyone else," Kodak turned, the viewscreen filled with asteroids looming behind him, "let's get some status reports, please." At this command, the Bridge's trim-lighting began to softly strobe with yellow luminescence.
Fingers tapping a staccato beat against her console, Irynya brought up the limited navigational sensor readings available to them. She scanned them for a moment, looking for any obvious gaps and then settling on an initial route. "Moving in at 1/4 impulse," she noted as she set them in motion--the ship sliding into the gap she had seen ahead of them. Quickly she corrected for the next window, shifting their approach to veer to the left and roll slightly so they could slide between two other elements.
Doctor Bracco had taken up the seat normally filled by Counselor Karim. It was an auxiliary console that didn't need to be manned at all times, so it afforded her a position on the Bridge when she wasn't actively holding counseling sessions. Looking around, she didn't need any kind of telepathic or empathic senses to know that people were nervous. She understood why: after being ambushed by both Klingons and Orions on the last stop in this scavenger hunt of the Captain's, people naturally feared more surprises. But this moment was neither the time nor the place to voice such things, so she kept her own counsel for now.
From her corner console, Chaali initiated the first scans of the asteroid field with the navigational sensors. Her console chirped up and then warbled a warning sound- which seemed to infect Irynya's Flight Control console with the same sound. "Sensors are extremely limited. Whatever these asteroids seem to be made of, it's reflecting our sensors back at us. I'm seeing two... even four hundred percent in places... of sensor mirroring. It's hard to determine what is a sensor ghost and what's a real asteroid." She tried to refine the scans, her cerulean skin turned greenish from the yellow bezel flash of her console displays. "The asteroids have high metallic and ice compounds and very high albedos but their dispersion doesn't make sense." She frowned. "Normally an asteroid belt differentiates by material and mass..."
Irynya frowned at her console as her own console duplicated the warning chirp that came from Chaali's. Her Bolian friend's update was concerning for numerous reasons, the most obvious being that the sensors may not be reliable enough for navigation. For a brief moment she considered switching to visual navigation, less ideal, but perhaps necessary if sensors couldn't be easily addressed. She slid them past a large asteroid and what could only be described as an enormous metal object, before tipping them back to the right.
Chaali frowned, "Lieutenant Pell? Are the main sensors any better?"
Cas, who had been studying the readouts being returned from the main sensors, frowned. "Not much," he said after a moment. "Generally asteroids develop from the destruction of something, a planet or moon perhaps. There's no evidence of motion, retrograde or otherwise. From what little I can tell, there's almost too much here? As though someone cut up a couple of moons and dumped it all here?" He sighed. "As I said, not much use but I'll keep working on it."
Chaali nodded her head with the same perplexed look as Pell had. Her fingers shifted and she made another navigational sensor broad scan for any minute gravitational eddies or dips in space-time.
Sharrina frowned down at her console. The console had given no offense, but neither had it given her any useful information. The sensors seemed to be having a lot of trouble scanning through this field, and that made her job harder. Yellow Alert meant that she had the shields up and the weapons at standby, but not active. "My board says there's no one here but us," she began, frowning still, but given that it also says it can't see its hand in front of its face... she thought snidely. "But given that our range is severely limited, I can't be completely sure of that." And that bothered her. It might sound paranoid, but she could almost feel eyes out there watching them.
"Half-blind and flying by feel," Kodak noted, having returned to his chair. "Sounds like just another day on the Sojo if you ask me," he said, his raspy voice full of good humor. "All we can do now is wait." Which sounded easy enough on the surface but, as the Chameloid watched asteroids big and small tumbling across the viewscreen, he couldn't help but worry.
Irynya's fingers danced their nimble dance over the next few minutes, guiding the Sojo expertly through the asteroid field. Long, tapered fingers manipulated the helm, initiating half-rolls, dives, and climbs to maneuver through the chunky field of space rocks. There'd been a few close calls -- the ship's deflector field spurring the smallest of rocks away -- but, at last, the ship came to a rest over its quarry.
Letting out a long low breath the Risian moved them into the closest possible position to their destination coordinates. An enormous rocky ball filling the viewscreen in front of her. "This..." she began, checking and double checking her coordinates, "...this is it, sir. I'm setting us in at low altitude and matching the asteroid's, umm... well... we're moving with it for now."
Said asteroid was, to put it simply, huge. At the center of the field, it'd been no easy task to navigate to but the Sojo was now parked above it. It seemed as if a sea of rock and ice spread out beneath them, sprawling in all directions. With sensor resolution limited to 50km, Kodak ordered a relay buoy dispatched, sending the probe down towards the surface of the asteroid. It took up station 20km above the surface, having found the sweet spot to connect with Sojo and cross relay sensor telemetry as needed. It did not take long for consoles across the Bridge to suddenly light up with findings.
As the various officers attended to their readings, Bracco stiffened slightly in her chair. What would befall the Sojo now? Orion pirates back for another crack at Kodak and the sphere? Asteroids that, themselves, were living creatures bent on destroying intruders in their home? Whatever it was to be, Jennifer felt confident the crew would handle themselves well. She was just thankful to have a firsthand seat to what was taking place vs. worrying from her quarters.
"There... might be some signs of industrial activity down there," Chaali reported. She was studying some strange anomalies. "Almost like a warren colony... with some surface access structures. I can't tell exactly how old. But I'm not detecting any life forms or atmosphere."
"Picking up a faint power signature from down below," Cas reported. "Readings still aren't as clear as I'd like but that much is certain."
Sharrina scrutinized the readings her board was able to give her, adding to that report. "According to what sensors we do have, there doesn't seem to be anyone down there." She touched some more kjeys, accessing different readings. "And I can detect no weapons activating, shields going up, or any other sign that we're unwelcome." But that tickle in the back of her mind, that little voice screaming 'It's too easy!' refused to shut the hell up. She noted it but ignored it for now, letting it only serve to make her more vigilant... if that was possible.
Emni sat back in her seat, waiting as the various officers reported in. With the final report from security she resituated herself to face the captain. "We can't see enough," she remarked, "even with the buoy." He had surely guessed what she would say next, but she continued ahead. "I suggest we take a team down to get a clearer look."
Kodak nodded emphatically. He didn’t need mental powers to deduce exactly what the woman was thinking. “You read my mind. I’ll take a team down there and see what we can see,” the Captain began. “Like the last leg of this hunt, live Chameloid DNA and the sphere will be needed, so I’ll need you here on the Bridge taking care of things while I’m gone.” He flashed back to a conversation he’d had with Andrew about his safety on these missions but, given the circumstances, there just weren’t many other options. Björn hoped his partner would forgive him.
Frowning, Emni shook her head. "I'm afraid I have to disagree, sir. I wouldn't be doing my job if I let you go down there particularly after our first stop on this mission." She was tempted to pause there, give him a moment to consider, but it was obvious that he intended to go. "We don't even know what's down there yet. I should be leading this team."
‘Yet.’ It was a key term for Kodak, who was now looking for a reason — any reason — to go down below himself. Perhaps there was a middle ground here that would both satisfy his partner’s request to stay out of harm’s way and allow his new XO to do her job without having to put up a fight.
“I don’t want to go back and forth on this but I will propose a compromise instead,” the Captain rasped. “You’re right in that right now, we don’t know anything. But what if you went down there, secured the area, and then,” he stressed, “I join you? That allows you to lead the team and keep me out of harm’s way until it’s safe enough to play my part.”
Emni considered the suggestion, turning over the various ways this could go wrong in her head. He wasn't wrong about the likelihood that they would need his DNA, but she also didn't love the idea of agreeing to let him come, even at the end, on the first ever away mission she would be tasked with running. Finally she nodded her agreement. "That makes sense," she said with a small smile. "But if we can't secure the area the away team comes back and we regroup first," she remarked. "It's my job to make sure you stay Captain, sir. And I'll be damned if I'm not at least going to get that part right."
Kodak could tell how badly t'Nai wanted to succeed at her new job. He found it admirable, even, that she so stringently wanted to protect him from harm. So it was with a warm smile and a nod that the Captain accepted the terms of the agreement. "A bargain has been struck," he noted. "We'll handle things up here for now. Take whoever you need, XO. And good luck down there. Hopefully that aren't any Orions lying in wait this time." Or Klingons, for that matter, he thought to himself.
The Captain watched t'Nai nod before dashing out the door, noting that she was not taking any of the current Bridge crew with her. "Alright then," he said aloud, a little humor in his voice, "it looks like we're stuck here waiting for something to happen. I'll be honest in that I'm just fine if we're bored to tears," Kodak said, hoping indeed that would be the case. But something told him things would not go that simply. They never did.
=/\= A joint-post between... =/\=
Captain Björn Kodak
Lieutenant Emni t'Nai
Acting Executive Officer
Lieutenant Jennifer Bracco, M.D.
Lieutenant (JG) Irynya
Acting Chief Flight Controller
Chief Operations Officer
Lieutenant Sharrina Blackstone
Assistant Chief of Security
Lieutenant Caspian Pell
Chief Science Officer